We wandered over to Soho’s Once Upon A Tart for a quick lunch early in the week. Once Upon A Tart consists of a coffee and bake shop in one space, and a small restaurant in the space next door. Our review is limited to the restaurant.
About half of the tables were filled when we arrived. There was music playing in the background–jazz standards–which was a bit loud at first, but the second song was much quieter. Whether the volume was tolerable depended, in large part, on whether the song featured a horn section. If yes, the sound bounced around the live space, if not, it was fine. We aren’t sure but we suspect that the volume was lowered as the tables filled up.
There are five stools lining a bar and eight tables for two plus one larger table for about six in the restaurant. Design choices result in a fairly live space: terrazzo floor, tin ceiling, glass windows lining the front, and a couple of large mirrors on both side walls. It didn’t help that the front door was open to street noise. That said, Sullivan Street isn’t heavily trafficked so our meal wasn’t interrupted by loud sirens or insecure motorcyclists, but as the restaurant is located between Houston and Prince Streets we could hear the faint roar of the traffic from a half block away.
The reading also reflects the sound emanating from a fellow customer who talked on her phone the entire time. She was so engrossed in conversation that she even ignored her meal. Circumstances like that add to the soundscape, but they are arbitrary and, thankfully, not normal. Personally, we find it hard to fault the restaurant for this behavior, as it can be uncomfortable to ask a customer to refrain from cell phone use unless they have a very public policy against cell phone use (rare, but we spotted a sign asking customers to refrain from cell phone use at a downtown restaurant).
In the end, while the space was not calming or serene, it was tolerable. Given that Once Upon A Tart is located in the thick of Soho, where there are very few reasonably priced eating options, it’s fine.
Restaurant: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day
Coffee and Bake Shop:
Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
135 Sullivan Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012